Recurring Fictions


160 pages
ISBN 0-88864-389-6
DDC C813'.6




Reviewed by Lynne Perras

Lynne Perras teaches communication arts at the University of Calgary.


Wendy McGrath’s imaginative debut novel records significant memories
and experiences of the author, her parents, grandparents, and
great-grandparents. Their stories are typical of many Canadian prairie

The format of Recurring Fictions reflects the nature of memory itself.
Rather than using a linear approach, McGrath weaves a tapestry from
recalled images, sensations, objects, songs, snippets of conversation,
and parts of dreams. The first-person narrative is organized
symbolically. For example, the first chapter centres on trains and their
personal significance. McGrath notes how many of her ancestors from
Europe eventually settled in Saskatchewan via trains. She remembers a
train ride taken by herself and her mother, which leads to the story of
a train journey taken by McGrath’s mother before McGrath’s birth.
The second chapter focuses on the power of objects (crocks, power tools,
stones, photographs, etc.) to evoke different times and places. The
remaining nine sections continue this lyrical, stream-of-consciousness
revelation of familial history.

McGrath paints an engaging and moving picture of the hardships endured
by so many early Canadians who struggled to survive in a cold and
unforgiving environment. At one point, she describes the efforts to
secure work: “The train had a nickname and the ride did too. Riding
the rails. Stretches of track my grandfather travelled on. My
grandfather and thousands of others trying to find a place that would
offer them work. … Work was what would allow these men to stop moving
along the tracks trying to focus on narrow bands of light and dark or
closing their eyes against them.” Not surprisingly, the author of this
beautifully written work is also a poet.


McGrath, Wendy., “Recurring Fictions,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 20, 2024,